Pete speaks to Joe McFadden, one of the stars of Haunting Julia, a critically acclaimed study of grief, obsession and the supernatural, set to grip audiences when it comes to Derby Theatre at the end of this month.
HM: Hi Joe, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you briefly sum up what we can expect from Haunting Julia?
Joe: I actually met Alan (Ayckbourn, playwright and author of Haunting Julia) a few weeks ago and he explained that he started writing a ghost story that developed in to this story about grief and lost love and this father (Joe Lukin, played by Duncan Preston) that's lost his daughter (the show's titular character, Julia Lukin, played by Louise Kempton) and is still struggling to come to terms with that. He brings my character (Andy Rollinson) into this music centre that he's built as a shrine to Julia. It turns out that I was her boyfriend at the time and he also brings along a psychic called Ken (Richard O'Callaghan). He's been getting what he believes are messages from her ghost and it's the story of him working out what happened to her. My character is a hardened cynic and doesn't believe in ghosts or the supernatural and throughout the course of the evening has his mind changed by it all. There's some really great scare moments throughout the play and it's nice to see the audience get a real fright a couple of times - there's a couple of moments where they actually jump three or four feet in the air which is fun.
HM: Tell us a bit about your character, Andy, and how he fits in to the story.
Joe: Since Julia's death he's become a music teacher. He was at university with Julia and was pretty mediocre at it and ending up becoming a teacher. He's moved on with his life to a certain extent and has a couple of kids and a wife, but isn't terribly happy - a lot of which stems from what he's gone through with Julia and her killing herself so young. He feels a lot of guilt and responsibility for that and that's obviously scarred him in some way.
HM: Your fellow cast member, Richard has reported the play being stopped several times due to audience members being “freaked out”. Should audiences prepare themselves for some real terror with Haunting Julia?
Joe: Since I joined the cast, we've not had that... YET! <laughs> But yeah, I heard that a couple of times the play had to be stopped because the audience were so upset. The story really gets under your skin. You don't know what's gone on because Duncan's character, Joe, doesn't know what's going on either. Throughout the course of the play you begin to find out and it really draws you in and you tune in to it. I've never known audiences be so quiet in a theatre I've performed in before - they're really trying to listen to what's going on. I think it's genuinely quite affecting for the audience and that's great to play.
HM: Are you aware that Derby is reputedly the most haunted city in the UK? Are there any superstitious members of the cast and crew with extra nerves about performing Haunting Julia here - especially so close to Halloween?
Joe: Is it!? That sounds fun! I don't think anyone's particularly nervous, but it's the perfect play to see around Halloween if you want a bit of a fright. Maybe I'll see something supernatural for the first time in Derby, I'll look forward to it!
HM: What has the reaction to the show been like in the other cities you’ve performed in so far?
Joe: It's been really great. Talking to audience members afterwards, they've all said they're really scared by it and really enjoyed it.
HM: What is it like to work with material written by Britain’s most successful living playwright?
Joe: It's a real challenge because it's basically three actors on stage for two hours telling this story. It's quite difficult language - quite demanding technically - but it's great. It's really well written and well crafted. Alan came to see us perform in Richmond a few weeks ago and said how great it was and how much he enjoyed it, so it was great to have his seal of approval - it meant a lot to us.
HM: Finally, do you have any tips or advice for any of our readers that have hopes of getting in to the industry?
Joe: I suppose I'd discourage them as much as possible! <laughs> No, if you're determined to do it - and you HAVE to be determind these days and ride out the quiet times, I'd really reccomend going to drama school first of all, get as much as experience as you can in youth theatre and amateur groups to discover if you have the skills and ability. From there, you just have to want it really badly otherwise you're better off getting in to something else!
Haunting Julia will be at Derby Theatre from October 22nd to the 27th. Tickets are priced from £10 to £25 and can be purchased from the Derby Theatre website. To find out more about the production, visit the Haunting Julia website or watch the trailer below.
Photos: Robert Day